This article is from SPS Thrive partner SmartDollar

It’s safe to say summer 2020 is going to be different than any other. “Make sure you stay at least 6 feet away from your friends in the pool, Timmy!” That is, if swimming pools are even open—who knows?

One thing we do know is that COVID-19 has changed what your typical summer would usually look like. The kids are already out of school, theme parks are shut down, and people aren’t going to be super eager to travel any time soon.

But there’s good news: This is a great time to save some money! Here are 20 money-saving tips to help you pocket some extra cash this summer. Mix and match ideas to create your own summer savings plan without sacrificing fun.

20 Ways to Take Advantage of Summer Savings

1. Trim up your entertainment budget.

As things slowly start to reopen this summer, it’s going to be pretty easy to cut back on entertainment costs (after all, public gatherings might still be canceled in your area). So that will save you a lot of money right there. But when events start to pick back up where you live, make the most of the free stuff like outdoor concerts, movie-on-the-lawn nights, and free days at local museums. Set up your budget with EveryDollar (included with your SmartDollar account) to keep track of all your savings!

You can save even more by borrowing free DVDs from the public library or ditching cable and signing up for a streaming service instead of spending too much money at the movie theater. And let’s be honest, after the kind of spring we all just had, you probably aren’t exactly itching to go to a jam-packed theater anyway.  

2. Pocket your money by skipping the theme park and visiting a natural park instead.

Again, who knows when theme parks will even open this summer. But once they do open, skipping a trip can save you major bucks. The one-day ticket price for a theme park ranges from about $50 to well over $100. That means a family of four could pay anywhere from $200–400 for just one single day of fun. Sheesh! Keep your cash and visit a state park in the great outdoors instead. Many parks are free or only charge a small entry fee per carload.

3. Earn money by doing a garage sale.

Who doesn’t love a good garage sale? More importantly, who doesn’t love the extra money you make from pawning your old stuff onto complete strangers? Now’s the time to hop on that spring-cleaning train, dig through the attic, and start planning for a garage sale. Well, you know, whenever you can stand less than 6 feet away from someone again.

If you just can’t wait to sell off your stuff, host a virtual garage sale. Post the photos and prices of the items online, let people digitally send you the payment, and all you have to do is drop the (sanitized) item off on their doorstep. Try one of the many apps out there if you go the virtual route. All that money you rake in could go toward your next Baby Step, like building an emergency fund or paying off debt.

4. Skip the car wash and save that money.

Skipping the car wash six times this summer could save you big! So grab the kids, get the suds, and start cleaning your own wheels. Or, let the nice summer rain take care of the job for you once in a while. Every week that you’d usually drive through a car wash, transfer what you would have spent over into your summer savings account.

5. Save on energy costs by caulking your windows and doors.

Your mom was right: There’s no need to air condition the entire neighborhood by forgetting to close your windows and doors. So go a step further and seal your doors and windows. This will help your air conditioner not have to work overtime—and it just might help you save more than you’d think on your energy costs!1

6. Earn money when you sell your old clothes.

Spring cleaning is in full swing! Clean out your closets and take your pre-loved threads to a consignment shop, or sell your clothes from the comfort of your own home through an online marketplace. You can put the money you make toward new school clothes for your kids in the fall or just add it to your summer savings fund.

7. Take advantage of a tax-free weekend and save hundreds on big purchases.

Check to see if your state (or one near you) offers tax savings for back-to-school buys. If so, wait until the tax-free weekend to buy things like school supplies, computers and clothes. It’s pretty outrageous how much taxes can add to your total price tag. So if you can swing it, just hold off until tax-free weekend to make those big purchases.

8. Save big on camp fees by creating your own.

Give it a go and try a camp-free summer (thanks to coronavirus rules, you might have to anyway this year). A typical one-week day camp can cost anywhere from $200–800.2 Multiply that by several kids and doing more than one camp throughout the summer, and the cost adds up to a small fortune!

Instead of having a summer camp bill that rivals a year of college tuition, just organize your own “camp” for your kids. Pick a theme and start making a plan. Ask friends and family members if they’d be interested in doing a video call with your kids for story time, craft projects or exercising. If you’d rather not take on the pressure of your own day camp, sign your kids up for virtual camps from across the country. Chances are, your kids will have just as much fun as they would at an expensive camp.

9. Shop smarter to save each week.

Before the week even starts, compare the ads from your local grocery stores and plan your meals around what’s on sale that week. Then, make a shopping list and stick to it once you get to the store. Not tossing extra items into the cart is one of the hardest parts of grocery shopping, but sticking to the list will help you save a lot!

Want to save even more on groceries? Give generic brands a try, stick to a weekly meal plan, and buy fruits and veggies that are in season from your local farmers market.

10. Use coupons.

We know what you’re thinking—coupons, really? Do coupons save you money? Yes! You just need to know how to find the right ones. Your local grocery store probably has digital coupons through their app. And there are about a million different cash-back apps out there too. They give you rebates for buying a certain brand of orange juice or tomato sauce. Then after you rack up enough rebates, you can cash them out. It’s a pretty good gig.

You can even use coupons at your favorite restaurants and fast-food joints too! Look out for 10% off coupons, kids eat free nights and buy one entrée, get one free deals. Download your favorite restaurant’s app to save even more! Don’t forget sites like Groupon and Living Social that offer you a $20 gift card for only $10 bucks. Using coupons like this can really add up.

At the end of the day, there’s still no denying that some of the best coupons come from the weekly ads in the Sunday newspaper (you know, the pile of stuff you usually toss out). So take a second and see what they’re offering before you pitch it in the garbage.

11. Save by packing your lunch.

Making your own meals is usually healthier and way cheaper than dining out, especially in the summer when fresh fruits and vegetables are everywhere (you could even grow you own!). Instead of going out to eat every day with your buddies, try making your own lunch two or three times a week. You could save money each week, which can add up over the course of the summer.

12. Skip the professional repairs and do it yourself.

Plenty of online tutorials teach you the basics of do-it-yourself jobs. Before you pick up the phone and call the professionals, give it a shot and see if you can solve the problem yourself. You’ll save money and maybe even learn something new! That’s a win-win for anyone.

13. Stock up on dollar store snacks before a road trip and save.

Road trips might look a little different this summer. But no matter where you’re headed for whatever reason, you can still save some money. If you normally stop for snacks while on the road, buying them at the dollar store ahead of time will help you not buy overpriced treats from a convenience store or gas station. Grab a plastic shoebox while you’re there so you can keep all the goodies organized for the road trip (yeah, even if it’s just a Sunday drive out in the country).

14. Look for discounts on your rental car.

Another thing that might look different for you this summer? Renting a car. Don’t pay full price for a car rental this summer! Be on the lookout for deep discounts from rental companies trying to get you to hit the open road.

Install a coupon finder onto your web browser so it can automatically look for coupons based on the car rental website you’re on. You could score a savings of 5–10%! 

15. Keep your blinds and curtains closed during the day.

Yeah, you might feel like a vampire blocking out any shred of light creeping in, but the payoff could be worth it. The U.S. Department of Energy says that 76% of sunlight that hits standard double-pane windows enters to become heat.3 And that means your A/C unit will be cranking to try to produce the cool air in your house—which is bad news for your electric bill. If you still want to let natural light in (and we don’t blame you), open the curtains or blinds that don’t let direct sunlight in.

16. Wash your clothes in cold water.

Guess what? You can wash your clothes in cold water and they’ll still get clean. The U.S. Department of Energy says two of the best ways to cut down on the amount of energy your home eats up is by using less water and using a cooler water temperature. Just moving that temperature setting on the washer from hot to warm could cut each load’s energy use in half!4

17. Shut the doors!

It might sound weird, but keeping the doors closed to rooms you aren’t using could save you a bundle! Your A/C won’t have to keep pumping air to those closed rooms, which means it’ll have less square footage to cool off and it’ll work more efficiently doing it. Simple fixes like this can impact your energy bill in a big way.

18. Save by pausing your gym membership.

Since gyms have been closed this spring, you’ve probably already discovered you can break a sweat without ever having to step into a fitness center. Take advantage of the warm weather and keep doing your workouts outside. Jog around your neighborhood, do yoga in the backyard, or even do a fitness class on YouTube. 

19. Find vacation discounts.

Alright, if you do want to give traveling a go this summer, you’re bound to find some great deals. Hotels, airlines and tourist hotspots are going to be doing all they can to try to seek out summer travelers. This means if you’re comfortable with traveling, you’re bound to save some major money. Search sites like Travelocity, Airbnb and Kayak to see how much you can save!

And don’t forget the beauty of a staycation. After being stuck in your house for weeks on end, it might be nice to hang out in your own neck of the woods for a while and explore your town again. Hit the park (remember those?) and kick back with a good read.

20. Save by shopping for insurance with the help of an independent insurance agent.

You didn’t see that one coming, did you? This is one of our most popular money-saving tips because it’s so easy to do. Maybe you’ve outgrown your current coverage or you qualify for new discounts. An independent insurance agent can research all the options to find the best deal that’s right for you.

Bottom line—you can have an incredible summer and still stick to your budget. You’ve just got to have a plan and stick to it. Remember, with your SmartDollar account, you also have access to EveryDollar, the best budgeting app around.

What are you waiting for? Let’s get this summer started! 

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